A Baffling Thought

  • Published
  • By Col. "Tip" Stinnette
  • 39th Air Base Wing commander
The Phoenix Field airport in Fair Oaks had been subject to recurring petty thefts from neighborhood teenagers, so a security firm was retained to patrol the grounds. Thefts decreased sharply, but aviation fuel consumption appeared to be higher than it should. This puzzling situation continued until late one night, when a passerby noticed a flaming airplane on the field. By the time the fire department arrived, the plane had completely melted into the tarmac. While they extinguished the residual flames, the passerby noticed a uniformed figure lying facedown several yards away. It was a security guard. He was revived and questioned.

Turns out he had been siphoning fuel from small planes to use for his car. The plane he selected that night had a unique fuel storage system involving hollow, baffled wing spars. When the determined guard shoved the siphon in, it stubbed against the first baffle. No matter how he twisted, pushed, and pulled the hose, he could not siphon any fuel from the plane. Exasperated, he lit a match to see inside the tank ...

We are blessed to have infinitely more honest, professional, and smarter security forces here at Incirlik. The joint relationship between our Turkish and American security forces here at Incirlik is a worthy model for the rest of our functions to examine. The daily interaction at the tactical level is the foundation for a strong and robust relationship. Daily interaction builds trust and bridges verbal communication disconnects with non-verbal understanding. In many ways, this relationship serves as a temperature gauge for how the entire installation works together.

We often gauge production by tangible output ... how many emails we have accomplished, how many Operating Instructions we have written, how many Policy Letters we have produced. It is tough to measure communication and understanding as a product. Maybe every now and then we should draw back from our computers and just go out and talk to each other. It seems to work for our Security Forces. Without understanding we are not much different than the guy trying to siphon a baffled fuel tank with a match in one hand and a hose in the other. The business of ensuring freedom's future is all about full body communication ... just ask our Security Forces!